So I guess I teach HS now…

I got an email reminder, per the suggestion of Sam Shah, about my goals this year, and one of them is written reflection for myself. So here goes.

I’m now 3 weeks into teaching HS and it’s… mostly really good. I feel good going to work, I feel good when students are in my room, I generally look forward to each day. Still, there’s a lot of adjusting to do. 


My first shock is that many – though certainly not all – of my students are REALLY on top of their grades. Like, emailing me within minutes of them being updated. This has not been my experience.

Also, for the whole of my teaching career (all of 3 years, I know), I have used standards based grading (SBG). The team I’m working on now does not use that, and for a huge variety of reasons, not the least of which is knowing how much education goes into teaching a population about SBG and that I’ll be using IB/MYP grading next year, I have agreed to go along. I am REALLY struggling to grade based on points. My whole lens of “Does the student understand? Does this grade reflect their understanding?” has been tipped on its head. The absolute arbitrary-ness of “this assignment is 5 points” drives me nuts.

I refuse to let go of the “Does the student understand?” mindset, however. I believe the grade should reflect understanding. I’m just having to think differently about how I write assessments. If they need the points, then it’s not okay for me to make a points based question that really pushes their understanding and require those points to get a good grade… or is it? It might be. It probably is. But how many points is that worth? What percentage? Writing assessments is taking a lot longer.

Also homework. Aaaaargh!


I have SO MANY STUDENTS, and SO LITTLE SPACE. I’m accustomed to a sprawling room where students were able to move for activities, place themselves around the room to share thoughts, and all of that space is gone. Dunzo. I fully appreciated how lucky I was to have such a large room last year, but I don’t think I fully appreciated how crummy it would be if I didn’t have it. Right now, if I asked all of my students to get up and move around during the class, someone would almost certainly get trampled. It’s just not feasible in the space I have. That has severely limited the type of activities I can do. It’s really hard for me to get around to see what they’re all doing. The benefit is that it’s made me think more thoughtfully about how I can get their creative minds flowing without movement. I confess that sometimes it has meant I have spent way too much time talking. I gotta work on that.

A different school is…different

On my way home today (I bike to work) I was pleasantly surprised to have a student from last year happen to also be biking on my same path. He asked how my new school was – a bit of a loaded question given that I would have also been his teacher this year had I stayed – and honestly, all I can say is: different. I knew my old school really well. I knew who to talk to about what, where all of the things were, and I knew pretty much every face at the school. Never hesitated when I saw a student in the hallways. My new school is nearly 5 times bigger, and although I’m surrounded by super helpful and supportive colleagues who have been kindly patient with all my questions, I am overwhelmed by all of the things that I don’t know. Minutiea that can only be learned from longer experience being there.

I really like teaching

I was feeling a bit panicky earlier in the day today, knowing I had a particularly energetic group coming up and not sure how they were going to take the lesson. I freely admit – I was anxious. Then they came in, and darn it if I didn’t just have a really good time. Sure, some kids didn’t listen well, but lots of them did, and I’m getting better at noticing who isn’t engaged. They asked really good questions, and at one point I had tears on my cheeks from laughter. I really like teaching.


Author: Ms. P

Math Teacher in Minneapolis, MN.

One thought on “So I guess I teach HS now…”

  1. For me, standards based mindset translates to regular points like so: I write a test/quiz with questions that check however many standards. Each one is graded by me in my head on a SBG scale then translated in real time to an equivalent point grade. Let’s say I have 10 questions on my test of all equivalent length (some might have multiple parts to get to equivalence). I will grade each question holistically and essentially award 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10 points for the question with a modified SBG mindset. Nothing gets less than a five (and blank questions get a student called back to complete/attempt it). This intentionally ignores the half of the percent scale less than 50% because it is silly and meaningless.

    Reassessments are managed through one on one meetings, small targeted quizzes, and occasionally test corrections.

    This works for me. When I’m on top of it I label the individual questions with standard labels/names, though sometimes that lives in my head. This system actually gives me more flexibility, not less.


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